Tag Archives: nature

From the Woods to the Sea

A Tapestry Weaving Retreat with Joan Baxter

With my travel sketchbook and camera in tow, I wandered down the old dirt road to the sea.  The autumn sun was casting a soft amber light upon the trees as it made it’s journey below the horizon.  The woods suddenly parted and I found myself in a private secluded bay with little waves gently crashing upon the sand.  I climbed up onto the old crumbling jetty and sat on a rock, watching the golden sky fade to dusk.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe washed over me.  I was here in this place of beauty and tranquility, where the woods meet the sea, and about to enjoy five whole days of everything tapestry weaving with one of my most favorite tapestry artists, Joan Baxter.


From the time I met Joan, I felt as though she were a familiar friend, like perhaps maybe she was one of my beloved faculty members from college. She greeted me warmly as she laid out a dazzling spectrum of her gorgeous hand-dyed yarns.  The room we would be using was dark and cozy, surrounded by forests and near to the retreat center’s chapel.  It was in this room, with my fellow tapestry weavers, covered with yarn, books, looms, and bobbins, and fueled by Joan’s tutorials and evening talks, that my imagination sprang to life.


How do the places and landscapes we hold dear to our hearts change with the passage of time?  This was the question Joan Baxter asked us to ponder over the months leading up to our workshop.  Compiling sketches and photos of our favorite place at different times of the day, we were asked to do some color studies.  Using our own yarn, and some of Joan’s, we played with colors of different values and hues.  We also had some of her samples to inspire us.  Joan is a magician when it comes to playing with and mixing colors…



A sampling of Joan’s beautiful samples…



And here’s mine!

During the day, she gave tutorials to small groups of us on how to create dots, flecks, and color blends. She really inspired me to become more bold with my weft colors, and to understand how to carry consistent colors from one area to another, like with a reflection on water or creating transparency.


A tutorial on weaving dots.  Joan enjoys simple weaving equipment like wooden frame looms and pipe looms…



More dots and flecks (and check out that beautiful bobbin!)

For this theme of the passage of time, I chose to visit a small lake by my parent’s house.  I visited many times over the summer, always drawn to the sparkle of sunlight across the water and the forest that surrounded it’s shore.  It wasn’t until the fall, right before the retreat, that I noticed a lone tree that stood out from the others.  It had transformed into a brilliant golden yellow, and I had an a-ha moment: This tree would be the focal point of my composition…




I thought I could weave an entire tapestry in five days! I must have been crazy.  The only tapestry I ever wove in five days is the size of a small photograph! Joan encouraged us to not weave for more than four to five hours a day, so as to not strain our eyes. So we went for walks, mingled and chatted with each other about our ideas, shared books and tips, were treated to several of Joan’s inspiring slideshows, and were fed three meals a day by the retreat staff.  The food was simple and nourishing and I loved that.  I found the simplicity and humbleness of our accommodations to be the perfect backdrop to focus on my art and my time with my new weaving friends.


The view from my bedroom window…

And I noticed my idea for my tapestry was beginning to change and be shaped by the beauty of the retreat center grounds.  I was particulary inspired by Joan to think differently about how to weave water.  I’ve always woven flat, mirror-like reflections, but Joan encouraged me to think about time transpiring and how I could create that.  I began going down to the little bay to observe how ocean waves would rise and fall.  Sometimes I’d go down to the pond and throw pebbles to watch the ripples fan out.  I realized I wanted to capture the multi-dimensional appearance of those ripples moving across the water.  This was my sample of that idea…


This sample was meant to try the techniques of carrying one consistent color throughout the water, capturing the light and shadow of a water ripple, the lines of a labyrinth underneath, and one of my trees golden yellow leaves (which ended up looking like carpet from the 1970s)

I’ve always been drawn to labyrinths as a symbol for personal and spiritual journeys.  I was so excited to see the retreat center had a lovely and simple one created from mowed grass and some shrubby trees.  I also knew I wanted to incorporate this symbol into my final design as well, perhaps underneath the water’s surface…


So after a few days of observing and sketching, I had a pretty solid idea for my Time inspired tapestry.  When the last day of the retreat came, I was sad and yet also eager to get back home to try some of my new ideas and techniques I had learned.  I also had a new appreciation for myself as an artist, and the endlessly inspiring life we artists can live if we just open up to it.  It was an unforgettable experience to learn from Joan, and also it was the first time meeting some of my fellow members of the tapestry group TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) who hosted this event.  While I still haven’t started the piece inspired by this workshop (I know! I know! I’m getting to it!), I’ve noticed how my design ideas have shifted and finalized in my mind.  I feel ready to at least do some sketching and get the loom warped, and I guess I need to do a few more samples, too!


My favorite weft blend, I love admiring it just on the bobbin…



A postcard of Joan Baxter’s weavings showing her use of dots

If you get the chance I highly recommend taking a workshop or retreat.  It’s a fantastic way to meet and be inspired by other artists, form amazing connections, and learn a new thing or two!

Keep creating!



Reflections on a Life I Love…

I took myself on an Artist’s Date today, after spending some time yesterday evening quietly reflecting on where I’m at in my life. I felt a major shift come over me in terms of the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of the life I’m currently living. A good and honest look at things revealed to me many answers to my questions of what is my life purpose, what are my goals, where do I find inspiration, who do I want to spend time with, etc. The questions seemed so big and yet the answers are so simple, it’s just a matter of me living them everyday, and also paying attention to how they show up. I think sometimes I can get so caught up in life and what I want to have that I forget that I already have everything I need. It’s all right in front of me. It’s the essence of who I really am, my source of inspiration and joy.


My favorite view across the lake

This is what led me to the woods today. It’s been ages since I stopped by to marvel at the sweeping limbs of the tall pine trees, to feel the breeze against my skin as it drifts across the lake, to turn off the constant chatter in my brain and tune into the bird songs that fill the forest. It’s all about the present moment and the beauty around me. Being in nature is where I feel like my truest and most authentic self. It’s where all of the drama of everyday life completely melts away, and all that’s left is peace. I can’t believe I haven’t gone on more adventures to the mountains and the forests since I moved back home, but after today I know it’s a priority. I need many more Artist’s Dates to the source of where my inspiration and creativity begins, even if it’s just once a month. My schedule can get filled up very quickly with all of the things I’d like to do (and some I don’t want to do but need to, for instance, adulting), but taking some time away from it all is the one thing that always brings me back home.

Keep creating,



A Celebration of Life’s Bounty


Ah, Thanksgiving, a holiday that I once thought of as a day off from school and an opportunity to eat too much mashed potatoes.  This time of year is different for me now, as I live thousands of miles away from my family.  I usually don’t know what I’m doing until a week before the holiday, when I get invited to some sort of Orphans’ Thanksgiving.  Every holiday for the past eight years has been different, some with old or new friends, strange or traditional dishes, simple or extravagant parties.  This time of year is always exciting, but it’s also taken on a new meaning to me personally.

The end of the year is a celebration of life’s bounty, and not just in terms of the food we gather around the table to enjoy with our loved ones.   Whether spent socially or introspectively, it is a day of expressing gratitude for all of the blessings that have graced our lives, big or small, simple or grand.  Today I’m grateful for my good health, a good job, the art I create and the opportunities to share it with the world.  I have love from many friends and family, however far away they might be.  I have warm clothes, a warm bed, and a solid roof over my head.  I have easy access to healthy food and clean drinking water.  I have also grown a lot in the past year, just by showing up to learn the lessons of personal healing and growth.  The difference between the gratitude I feel this year compared to years past is that now I feel it all around me and within me.  Gratitude for the physical and spiritual; for what can be seen, and what can be felt.

Happy day of gratitude to you and yours.  However you spend the day, I hope you can include a few minutes of giving thanks for all of the blessings in your life.

Parting of the Mists

My recently finished piece “Parting of the Mists”


A Change of Pace…

How I just want to weave through this last inch and a half as fast as possible and finally be done with this weaving!  P1040790

But I know from past experiences how disastrous this can be.  My normal weaving pace is pretty slow and meditative as it is, I certainly wouldn’t ever win a tapestry weaving race if one existed.  Now as I near the end of a piece I deliberately slow down and really notice what I’m doing, to enjoy the final stages of creating a work of art that I want others to enjoy as well.  Hurrying to finish a piece only results in my being unhappy that I didn’t give it my best and dedicated intentions.  I believe that when an artist puts their love and enjoyment for their medium into their work, it shows and the viewer can sense that.  Of course if I have a deadline I’m going to have to win that race, but I’d rather not rush something I’ve already invested so much time and passion into.

This is my first post since returning from my vacation to central Oregon last month, and what an inspiring adventure it was…

IMG_0630 099

With so much to see and do, the Hokett Loom didn’t get much use!  Maybe next time…


I’ve lived in Oregon for 8 years now, and seeing all of this beauty surrounding me makes me so grateful I live in such a majestic place.  I wish I could spend all of my days hiking to alpine lakes and visiting stunning waterfalls, soaking in all of that gorgeousness!  But I have to go back to reality for now.  I’ve been working diligently on the weaving for the past month and it’s coming along well.  I’m slowly learning more about this medium through my own mistakes and curiosity, which maybe someday will turn into a book or something to help others who are trying to figure this tapestry weaving thing out.  I have some incredible memories and images from this trip to inspire future weavings, and believe me there’s a lot brewing in that ol’ imagination of mine.  Some serious painting is gonna happen once I finish this piece!  But I’m getting ahead of myself… I still have a couple more slow and focused inches to go.